City report card: Mature Cantwell facing fresh challenge at City

Todd Cantwell of Norwich in action as leaves Dominic Solanke of Bournemouth on the floor after going

It's been a season of personal growth for Todd Cantwell.

Todd Cantwell's introduction on to the Premier League stage was fuelled by past criticism and a determination to prove people wrong. 

But once you have answered your critics and performed in the Premier League, what comes next? For Cantwell, that was a very pertinent question last summer.

There's no wonder the Dereham-born midfielder found his head spinning when his name appeared alongside some of the biggest in English football after a season of real personal progress in the top flight. He felt the full force of the relegation hangover more than most.

Whether it was Leeds, Arsenal or Tottenham, the rumour mill went into overdrive when Norwich City's relegation back to the Championship was confirmed. As Cantwell sat on the turf following their defeat to Burnley that confirmed their fate, he must have been pondering what it meant for his career. 

After all, the 23-year-old is a winner. He is someone who takes every result personally. Irrespective of the criticisms people have about him, nobody can question his love for the club. 

Despite the rumours and claims of bids, City are yet to receive a single offer for their academy graduate. 

For Cantwell, after his omission from the matchday squad against Bournemouth in October, it felt like a case of learning lessons or watching his time at City dwindle away. There was a disappointment behind Daniel Farke's blunt quotes after defeat on the south coast. He had shown more faith in him than many.

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Subsequently, Cantwell has described that period as being like a whirlwind. In the future, it may just shape the player he is set to become. 

Hard knocks and difficult moments can start a fire inside certain players. Cantwell has developed into a real talent, and his maturity has arguably been his biggest improvement this season. From a boy from Dereham, he has become a man capable of standing on his own two feet. 

Previously, he spoke insightfully and honesty about how internet trolls had affected him after he broke through at Norwich. Now, he has the ability to block them out. He was distracted by speculation, now he wants to do his talking on the pitch. 

The development of Todd Cantwell the person has been as interesting as Todd Cantwell the player. 

Last year, the player came first. Everyone saw the ability as he scored against Manchester City. He became a name when he netted against Chelsea. 

Todd Cantwell has found online abuse hard to deal with, but believes he has learned to deal with it.

Championship winner; Todd Cantwell.

This year it has been about mentality. How he responds to tough moments and overcomes adversity. Could he do it when the world's audience were watching another channel? For everything that is taught and fine-tuned within the academy system, this is often something that can't be replicated. 

That isn't to say there hasn't been an improvement on the pitch. 

Cantwell is blossoming into a real talent. His technical proficiency is often highlighted but his athletic nature is helping him bypass defenders. 

Instead of being tricky or quick, Cantwell is using his body to good effect to almost glide past defenders. His ball-carrying abilities have improved drastically since the Canaries' last top-flight campaign. 

Since Christmas, the numbers behind his performances have been impressive. Cut through the noise about his hairstyles and coloured boots and Norwich possess a real talent, one that is on the cusp of improving even further. One they have crafted and given the freedom to express himself. 

The next dilemma will surround his contract, with one year remaining plus an option to extend, this summer feels like a pivotal moment in his City journey. 

Either he leaves Carrow Road and progresses his career elsewhere or signs a fresh deal and commits to being the face behind Norwich's attempt to remain in the Premier League. Comparisons are futile, but Jack Grealish has shown there is value in remaining with the club which has shown faith in you. 

The feeling inside the club is that Cantwell's development may accelerate as he gains experience. Playing in the Premier League will only aid that. 

If the 23-year-old does opt not to sign a fresh deal at Carrow Road this summer, then the club may be forced to cash in before his value deflates at a rapid rate. That is the ending nobody of a yellow and green persuasion desires. 

Todd Cantwell of Norwich and Norwich Head Coach Daniel Farke at the end of the Sky Bet Championship

Few have shown as much faith in Cantwell as Daniel Farke. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Cantwell now needs a season that showcases both his creative ability and goalscoring nack in order to enter the same stratosphere as his colleague Emi Buendia. Given City could lose the Argentine this summer, it may be that they look to the Dereham born midfielder to step up and help them sustain their Premier League position. 

That is the next challenge for Cantwell. 

For a player who has made a habit of proving people wrong, you wouldn't dismiss his chances of smashing through the bar of expectation once again. He is Norfolk's own, and a player the whole county should be incredibly proud to have.

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